Just after 9 a.m. Saturday, deputies arrived at a home on Ledford & Craine Road in Marshall and discovered a 2010 Toyota Corolla with no license plates, according to Michael Garrison of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
As deputies examined the car, James Michael Norton walked toward them from a home across the road.
During that conversation, Asheville police officers notified Madison County deputies that the Corolla was registered to Christina Louise Kessinger, Garrison said.
Kessinger was found Friday afternoon in a trash bin at 56 Central Ave. in Asheville with a screwdriver in her skull, according to warrants.
Norton, 29, was later arrested by Asheville police on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the death of the 62-year-old woman.
On Monday, he appeared before a Buncombe County district court judge where he was assigned a public defender and continues to be held without bond in the jail.
He was released from prison one year ago, on Feb. 15, 2015, for larceny of a motor vehicle and altering a serial number, after serving a sentence of at least 10 months.
Norton’s criminal history is peppered with felony convictions across several counties, including larceny over $1,000 and credit card theft in Buncombe County, breaking and entering in Madison County and drug possession in Henderson County, records with the Department of Corrections records show.
On Monday, Asheville police spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said in an email that the agency is declining to release 911 recordings related to the homicide, saying they are part of an ongoing investigation.
However, North Carolina law is “crystal clear” on the matter, according to Amanda Martin, general counsel for the North Carolina Press Association. The recordings or transcripts are public records, and local law enforcement has a history of releasing these to the media.
Later Monday, Hallingse wrote in an email that the police would release 911 records.
It is unclear why Kessinger, a real estate agent with Asheville Realty Group, was at the office building. When contacted by the Citizen-Times, a man who works there said he discovered Kessinger as he was taking out trash.
The man, who asked to not be named, said he opened the bin to find blood and the woman inside, moaning. He said he ran back into the building to get a phone and call 911, and said he returned to the dumpster with a coworker. Officials soon arrived, but the woman fell silent, said the man.
“We told her help was on the way,” he said.
Norton was charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon late Saturday night.
After obtaining a search warrant for the Ledford & Craine Road site, Asheville police investigators processed the scene around the vehicle and transported it to a forensic bay in Asheville for further analysis. Investigators also took other items from inside the residence and brought in Norton for questioning, according to Madison County law officers.
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